JEFF BROOMES: BCL never the same again
IT HAD TO happen! We could see it happening from a far way off! Why did we let it happen? Was there no vision, no leadership, no genuine care? Was politics too strong a force to withstand? We faltered and must now face the harsh reality.
From my young days, I was a big fan of the Barbados Cricket League (BCL). To me, this organisation promoted and ensured the development of village cricket. We had our heroes in our neighbourhoods, and they motivated us.
Yes, we read about and often heard of the exploits of the national and Test cricketers on Rediffusion. We sought to emulate them, but we could see, touch and be guided by the top batsman, bowler or fielder who lived next door or a few houses up the gap.
The annual game that allowed the players from the Barbados Cricket League to pit their skills against those of the players from the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA)was a classic for us. We thrilled with satisfaction when one of our boys outperformed the so-called big boys and went on to earn national recognition.
In those days, the BCA was seen by some to be elitist. They had three divisions with some clubs being represented by teams in each division. Another feature was the centralisation of these teams, with the parish of St Michael being the hub.
Additionally, there was a limited number of schools with the facilities to play top flight representative cricket. Of course, the fact that there was gender separation at most schools also reduced the number that could have competitive teams.
Those were the good days and then, like Humpty Dumpty, there was a great fall and now, apparently, the pieces cannot be put back together again. Some factors were natural and simply required creative responses; some were self inflicted but most were deliberate and devastating.
As the educational fraternity expanded with more schools defining our national landscape and co-education being the order of the day, things changed. Most village boys now had an obligation to play for their schools and this hurt the BCL at some level.
Many of the zonal and divisional secretaries took it easy and expected that talent and interest would continue to come to the fore without increased effort. That was a mistake and the intense and active support for the country BCL teams faltered and some teams folded.
The most devastating blow to the Barbados Cricket League, however, was landed by the Barbados Cricket Association. I sat at many meetings and heard the warnings, the pleadings and the clear predictions of demise from Owen Estwick often supported by Tony King.
The politics of the day suggested that clubs with good grounds and pavilions were just too good to be in the Barbados Cricket League. Year after year, one prominent BCL team or another was drafted into the BCA and the slide of the BCL became more pronounced. Estwick tried with all he had but was just not able to overcome the politics.
Christ Church teams left, St Andrew teams left, St Peter teams left and the League was a mere remnant. As this happened, the BCA blossomed into four or five different divisions.
To their credit, the St James teams held firm and continue to stand as the bulwark of the BCL. Recently, the announcement came that the BCL could no longer field a team in our top flight domestic competition. The last bell has been tolled and the chickens have come home to roost. Village cricket has suffered and Barbados cricket will never be the same again.
Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]